Lando Norris Says Carlos Sainz Jr. ‘is One of the Best Drivers in Formula 1,’ but One Statistic Calls Statement into Question

It’s easy to understand why McLaren’s Lando Norris holds such a high opinion of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. He continues to watch Sainz grow as a Formula 1 driver.  

Up close and personal, he has experienced Sainz’s ability to play give-and-take on the track.

Sainz makes it a habit to renege on surrendered track space.

Carlos Sainz Jr. hands Lando Norris track space at United States GP and grabs it back

During Lap 8 of the United States Grand Prix on Oct. 24, Sainz allowed Norris to pass after the order came down from his team’s command post.

Dutifully, Sainz gave up his position and followed Norris through four turns at the Circuit of the Americas. He was setting up his former McLaren teammate. On the straightaway, Sainz started sneaking up, then on the next turn, he made his move, overtaking Norris on the inside.

Sainz giveth and taketh away. It appeared he was toying with Norris.

“Carlos, I believe, is one of the best drivers in Formula 1,” Norris told motorsport.com.

Norris should know. He drove and worked alongside Sainz for two seasons (2019-2020) before moving to Ferrari and joining forces with Charles Leclerc. Reportedly, the two did not bond personally, but they pushed each other.

Sainz remains winless in 141 career Formula 1 races  

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr., right, speaks with McLaren driver Lando Norris following the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix on May 23, 2021 | ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images

Driving primarily in the shadows of F1’s great title chase of 2021 between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, Sainz surprised several insiders by finishing fifth in the drivers’ standings, two places above the more established Leclerc. Norris finished sixth.

Last season, Sainz secured four podium visits, including a P3 during the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Dec. 12.

Sainz may have Norris sold on his driving skills, but maybe it’s a bit early to anoint him in the drivers’ top grid. He has the talent, grit, and nerve to take risky maneuvers. He races with the intellect of a chess player, but his resume remains incomplete.

In 141 career GP starts, Sainz has yet to win at the F1 level. He has two runner-up finishes.
Should Sainz be considered “one of the best drivers in Formula 1” if he has yet to take a checkered flag?

Norris: ‘I always had the motivation to want to beat Carlos’   

The son of a two-time World Rally champion, Sainz has racing in his blood. Reportedly, Ferrari is willing to open negotiations on extending Sainz’s contract, which expires after the 2022 campaign.

“I always had the motivation to want to beat Carlos,” Norris said.

Easier said than done.

At 27 years old, Sainz should be entering his prime driving years. Will he ever live up to Norris’ proclamation of being “one of the best drivers in Formula 1?”

Maybe, but first, he needs to win a few F1 events.

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